Saturday, February 12, 2011

Book Review : The Windup Girl - Paulo Bacigalupi 9*

The Windup girl is set in a possible near future, a dystopian nightmare where bio-engineered plant disease has run riot and destroyed many of the world's food crops, where fossil fuels have almost run out, and where rising sea levels threaten the coastal countries.

The Kingdom Of Thailand survives as a nation still independant of the vast global nutrition companies, but in a dark twist, it owes much of its current ingenuity and genehacking ability to one of the very people it professes to most despise.  Within the nation competing powers are at work to either shore up or destabilize the Kingdom, the powerful government agencies of Trade and Environment, always in competition, are now moving against each other as the people near the top sense the time for revolution is near.

In his kink spring factory, farang calorie man Anderson struggles with his workforce, bribery to corrupt officials, outdated equipment and his second in command, Hock Seng, who seems to be working as much for himself as for the company.  Anderson meets Emiko, a bio-engineered New Person, in a brothel and is entranced by her, Emiko dreams of running away from her programming and her humiliating life to a fabled village of new persons rumoured to exist in the jungle. Jaidee, the Tiger of Bangkok named for his upright and hard moral stance, and his assistant Kanya, lead the White shirts of the Environment Ministry's enforcement arm against illegal importers and energy users.

As tension between the government agencies and outside forces explodes into violence, everyone's plans are thrown into flux.  Anderson tried to seize the moment and push forward his companies plan to invade Thailand and gain access to the vital seed bank, the repository of gene pure seeds that they hope to create disease resistant strains from.

Paolo Bacigalupi has created an entirely believable and frighteningly possible future, a city where vast five lane highways built for hundreds of thousands of cars are now traversed by elephants and bicycles once more, a world where human avarice and science without morals has brought the world to its knees.  On top of this astonishing and well crafted background he has weaved a multi stranded storyline which, although a little slow at first, builds up a head of steam and then explodes into an orgy of violence and chaos.

Great storytelling and a thoughtfully crafted world, The Windup Girl tied with China Meiville's The City & The City for the 2010 Hugo Award, I have to say, much as Meiville is my favourite author, The Windup Girl is the better novel, really good sci-fi that examines the future possibilities of mankind's current actions with a gripping thrill ride of an action story to boot.

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